Musharraf turns a Kashmir leaf at UN, offers olive branch
22 September 2004
The Indian Express
New York: Peace between India and Pakistan threatened to break out today at the UN General Assembly in New York, as General Musharraf promised to tell Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday that ‘‘this was the moment for peace (and) we must not allow it to slip away.’’ Wearing a white sherwani coat, Musharraf completely abandoned the hostile tone and language of only a year ago, when on the same stage he had thundered about the ‘‘brutal suppression of the Kashmiri demand for self-determination and freedom from Indian occupation.’’ Advertisement Instead, the Pakistani President stated emphatically that ‘‘there is no military solution to our problems,’’ just as the three wars and the mobilisation of 2002 had shown. Pakistan was firmly committed to ‘‘resolving all disputes with India peacefully, including the Kashmir dispute. We desire a resolution of Kashmir, which is just and acceptable to India, Pakistan and the people of Kashmir. We also seek strategic stability with India,’’ he said. Clearly, the back-channel dialogue between National Security Adviser J N Dixit and his Pakistani counterpart Tariq Aziz, had paid off. At their fourth meeting in Dubai barely two weeks ago, Dixit is believed to have told Aziz that the meeting between Prime Minister Singh and the General ‘‘would not amount to much’’ if Musharraf insisted on keeping the bitter and acrimonious tone of last year. The transformation of the General from Kargil war-monger to peacemaker, meanwhile, resonated across the General Assembly today. There was no reference to UN resolutions, no description of Kashmir as ‘‘the most dangerous dispute in the world,’’ and no reference at all to the need for Indian troops to end their suppression of the ‘‘Kashmir freedom movement.’’ Clearly, too, the peace process launched by former PM Vajpayee that the Congress government has continued with some vigour in recent months, also had much to do with the General’s reasonable approach today. And even though a calm and somewhat satisfied silence emanated from the Indian camp, the September 24 meeting between the two leaders is expected to yield at least a few small leaps forward. But the President also unleashed some warning salvos, indicating that he needed something from Manmohan Singh in return before he returned to Pakistan. ‘‘Pakistan has pursued this process with complete sincerity, giving bilateralism a final chance,’’ he said, in a reference to the hardline pressures at home that had for the moment been silenced in favour of a more reasonable approach. The President also pointed out that India could not simply ignore the Kashmir dispute at the risk of focusing only on confidence-building measures. ‘‘The dual channels of CBMs and the dialogue process must proceed in tandem,’’ Musharraf said. Since Pakistan was committed to resolving all disputes, the Kashmir dispute could not be ignored and its ‘‘resolution cannot be delayed,’’ he said.